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Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 18 January.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall be attending a diamond jubilee reception for the National Association of Pension Funds.

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is evidence that the atomic tests that took place in Maralinga in the south Pacific in the 1950s led to the deaths of some of our service men from cancer? Does she not agree that simply making available service men's records is insufficient and that what is required is a public inquiry and an assurance that compensation will be given to the victims and their relatives?

The Ministry of Defence has announced that it will conduct a health study of all personnel who were serving in connection with those tests in Australia and the south Pacific. That is a survey of about 15,000 personnel to see what the effects have been. That is the best way to go about this problem.

On wider nuclear questions, will the Prime Minister recognise that many people in this country do not believe that unilateralism would provide either for the proper defence of this country or be conducive to the peace of the world, but none the less they want serious disarmament talks? Will she recognise that her rigid adherence to the zero option is not sufficient? It may be the best option, but it is not the only option. If the opening bid is to be the closing bid, there can be no negotiations. Will the Prime Minister therefore move from the rigid position that she has adopted?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that unilateralism constitutes one-sided weakness. That would be Britain's weakness. That would be totally unacceptable to most of us in the House. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the zero option would be absolutely the best. In the absence of the zero option, we must have balanced numbers. The place to get balanced numbers is at the negotiating table at Geneva.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there has been too much talk in the past week or two about gloom and doom for our economy by the Opposition parties and people outside who ought to know better? Will she take it from me that after the night is the dawn and that provided the Treasury continues with its flexible and pragmatic policies 1983 will be a good year for the Government and the country?

I thank my hon. Friend and knight for his gracious and sage advice and I congratulate him.

Returning to the right hon. Lady's replies to more serious questions a little earlier, may I ask when the Government will be able to give a considered reply to the proposals made by Mr. Andropov before Christmas, to which the right hon. Lady gave her answer before reading what they were? Taking into account the later proposals from the meeting in Prague, when will the British Government make a response, especially as it seems that some months ago in Geneva there was the possibility of an agreement? Have the Government any view about that, as we believe that it would have been far better to back the proposals made by Mr. Rostow at that time?

The nature of the dual track agreement in December 1979, honoured by all NATO countries, was that cruise missiles would be deployed unless the SS20s were taken down. After that came the zero option proposal, which is undoubtedly the best. If the SS20s are not taken right down, cruise will start to be deployed. The numbers to be deployed will depend upon achieving a balanced agreement with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. If the SS20s are not taken down, we must start to deploy cruise missiles. Mr. Helmut Schmidt in Germany was extremely firm about that. Indeed, I believe that it was partly his firmness that brought the Russians to the negotiating table.

The right hon. Lady has not attempted to answer the question. What is her view about the Rostow proposals, which did not involve continued insistence on the zero option, however desirable? Furthermore, does she recall that in our debates before Christmas there was considerable discussion of the dual control of the new missiles which, in certain circumstances, the Government propose to establish in this country? It is now claimed that the British Government have refused to insist on dual control. Do they intend to continue with that view or shall we insist that British control be established over these weapons?

The principle is a balance in order to deter. The best balance between the Soviet Union and NATO is zero. In the absence of that, one must have a balance between the SS20s and the cruise and Pershing missiles, which are in the same range of intermediate nuclear weapons. That is the proposition before us. One hopes to achieve the zero option, but in the absence of that we must achieve balanced numbers. In calculating the balance, one must not go in for bogus counting. Some of the propositions that have been put up, and repeated, involved bogus counting. We must not allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes in that respect.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the dual key. The use of United States bases in the United Kingdom in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision by Her Majesty's Government and the United States' Government in the light of circumstances prevailing at the time. That is the same rule as existed under the Labour Government and as has existed for the past 30 years. I am aware that concern has been expressed about the effectiveness of the arrangements and I have satisfied myself that they are effective.

Has my right hon. Friend had time during her busy day to note reports of demonstrations by certain women within the parliamentary buildings yesterday? Does she agree that such extra-parliamentary activity, as it has been called, is made more likely by the conduct of the Leader of the Opposition, not so much by his giving succor and encouragement to the women demonstrating at Greenham Common, as by his support and endorsement of that advocate of extra-parliamentary opposition, Mr. Peter Tatchell? Does my right hon. Friend agree that extra-parliamentary opposition too often means anti-parliamentary opposition and should accordingly be condemned?

One is obviously against anti-parliamentary opposition of any kind, from wheresoever it may come, as all of us here believe in fundamentally democratic systems. Part of those democratic systems is, of course, the ability to demonstrate and to express one's views outside the House. I look forward to the time when demonstrations about nuclear weapons can take place as easily in Moscow as here.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 18 January.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

As it was the right hon. Lady's own private Member's Bill, which she moved in her maiden speech in 1960, that safeguarded the rights of the press to be admitted to meetings of public bodies, how can she support the Secretary of State for the Environment, who, later today, will ask us to repeal that legislation in so far as it applies to the water authorities that he is setting up, allowing those bodies, appointed entirely by the Secretary of State and his colleagues, to meet in the absence of any public scrutiny over their spending of our money?

It is because the nature of the authority is being changed entirely, from its previous form to an executive body.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the two excellent statements from BL this week, showing a 99½5 per cent. strike-free record for the Rover company and a similar record for Jaguar, with sales to America increased by 120 per cent.? Does she agree that co-operation between management and workers at BL has contributed most to that record and will help British industry more than anything else that we can imagine?

I agree wholeheartedly with what my hon Friend has said. BL has done very well recently in its export record, and the record of Jaguar within the group is outstanding, but it has a long way to go before it breaks even, let alone generates sufficient capital to produce the next generation of cars. In the meantime, BL is doing much better. I join my hon Friend in praising the work that has been done and attribute it to the same cause as he does.

When the Prime Minister visits my constituency on Friday of this week will she explain to the people there why there are now nearly 7,000 unemployed in Halifax, with more redundancies being announced nearly every day, why hospital wards are due to close, why there have been massive cuts in all the social services and why anyone should vote for her at the next general election?

On the first part of the question, despite what is now an excellent record in retail sales, a sufficiently large proportion of those sales is not coming from home production because British manufacturing industry is insufficiently competitive either in price or in design and must improve. The demand is there, but British industry is not taking a sufficient part of the home market.

On the second part of the question, as the hon. Lady knows, old-age pensions have more than kept pace with inflation and the pensioners received their Christmas bonus. [interruption.]The hon. Lady asked about the social services and I am telling her. In the Health Service, there are more doctors and nurses than there were under the Labour Government. An extra 5 per cent. in real terms is being spent on it, and so on.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 18 January.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Does the right Lady recall that during her trip last week she declared that she would defend to the full all Falklanders' rights, but that immediately she returned to this country she said that she would not support the British right to work? Is the price that she is now paying for the stability of the pound the total abandonment of the Britisn unemployed?

With regard to my right hon. Friend's reply to the Leader of the Opposition about the command and control of United States cruise missiles that are to be based in Britain, will she re-emphasise that not only have conditions not changed in the past 30 years but that it remains the case that the affirmative agreement of the British Prime Minister is required before any United States nuclear weapons that are based on these islands can be launched?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I have satisfied myself about the effectiveness of the arrangements for joint decision.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to advise the Secretary of State for unemployment, who will visit my constituency on Thursday, that welcome though the improvement in production by Jaguar cars is, it is still barely 50 per cent. of what it produced under a previous chief executive? Does she agree that the real problem in Coventry and the rest of the west midlands is that there is 20 per cent. male unemployment and that one-third of our manufacturing capacity has been lost? Will not the Prime Minister realise that some Government intervention is necessary to coordinate and increase Government purchasing, via British Leyland, with component and capital goods suppliers in the west midlands before the devastation goes any further?

If we recover a greater share of the car market, we shall be doing extremely well by the west midlands, but that must be done by the industry itself. When reviewing regional policy, the Government have an eye on what has happened in regions such as the west midlands.